One of the best things about A Song of Ice and Fire is the rich back stories that create a historical backdrop for the present narratives to play out. The show does it’s best to weave them in, but screen time is limited. This is an attempt to give you a shorthand way to remember the history and motivations of each house/character.
You remember the fat drunk king from season one? King Robert Baratheon, he wasn’t always so fat and infected. Lord Robert Baratheon was a badass fighter and lord. He was set to marry Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna Stark. You remember Ned Stark, right? The stiff, boring, principled warrior who no longer has a head.
Lyanna Stark was presumably not a fan of loveless drunk sex. Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ older brother, was a suitor of Lyanna Stark. He was a much more handsome man who probably made love like he was picking lilies. He won her heart and she ran away with him, allegedly.
Robert Baratheon couldn’t possibly imagine why Lyanna might do such a thing and assumed she was taken hostage. Brandon Stark, Ned’s brother, took his wild pack of family dogs to rescue his sister. When the Starks arrived, The Mad King Aerys, father of Rhaegar and Daenerys, ordered them to be executed.
Lord Jon Arryn, the father of the weird breast feeding kid, protected Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. The Mad King declared war. Robert and Ned kicked ass. The Lannisters (Tywin, Tyrion, Cersei) approached Robert with a treason which would inevitably put Robert on the throne. Robert accepted. Following the pact, Ned and Robert probably had this conversation:
Tywin Lannister set a trap for Mad King Aerys and ordered Jaime to kill the mad king as Robert and Ned marched toward the castle gates. Boom! Robert wins the war, marries Cersei to complete the pact and the new kingdom is formed.
How Does Oberyn Martell fit into this picture?
When he was 15 Oberyn and his sister Elia Martell, traveled to Casterly Rock to seek marriage alliances with Cersei and Jaime by negotiating with Joanna Lannister, Tywin Lannister’s wife. Just before their arrival, Joanna died giving birth to Tyrion. When the Martells approached Tywin with with marriage negotiations he ignored them for two weeks and then further angered them by offering his dwarf son Tyrion to Elia Martell. The Martells topsy-turvied that shit by negotiating with the Targaryen’s to marry Elia to Prince Rhaegar
This seriously fucked Tywin’s day as he planned to wed his daughter Cercei to Rhaegar making her the future queen and giving power to the Lannister house. Several years passed with Tywin just stewing until he decided to have some fun with some good old fashion regicide. He marched 12,000 troops to Kings Landing where The Mad King called home.
Tywin standing outside the gates of Kings Landing was like, communication is key to any good relationship, let me in its cold out here, let’s just talk. The Mad King’s like you’ve got 5 minutes to tell me what you wanted to say and he let him in. Tywin then proceeded to kill everyone in the city while Jaime kills the Mad King becoming “The Kingslayer.”
You may have heard reference to “The Mountain.” He’s the brother of “The Hound” who is the foster parent of everyone’s favorite tomboy Arya Stark. The Mountain, or Gregor Clegane led Tywin’s 12,000 troops in kills on the day they sacked Kings Landing. He killed the Targaryen heirs and raped and murdered Elia Martell, Oberyn Martell’s sister. A major motivating factor for Oberyn Martell being in King’s Landing at the present moment.
I hope you enjoyed a little back story to your Game of Thrones. May your “Who’s that Guy” ratio decline every so slightly at a rate approaching zero.